John Cena praises MJF, looks back on his own scrapped heel turn, says he was originally supposed to face Bray Wyatt in a traditional match at WrestleMania 36

By Jason Powell, Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest John Cena
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via

On the scrapped heel turn: “It was Cena Rock 1. I got word that they were going to do it. I went out and recorded a new song. I went out and got all new gear. I wasn’t prepared for ruthless aggression, that was the last time I wasn’t prepared. I mean, I heard rumblings of we’re going to do it. And in 48 hours, I had a new track, a new studio mix theme song, final mix. I had seven new singlets, low-cut singlets with boxing-type robes. I already had the boots in storage, so I dusted them off. I was ready to go and already thinking about like what I could do with the story. Okay, what is a heel? A heel is not just new gear. The objectivity, or the message behind the singlet and the boxing robes and the boots is the exact opposite of what you saw with the street gear, the jeans shorts, the t-shirt, the ball cap, the sneakers. Go the opposite route and now lean into the opposite of everything you stand for. So I would begin to not work as hard. I would show up less, I would be untrustworthy and un-loyal. I would lack respect in what I did.

“Like all you have to do is turn that on its [head]. I would give up a lot. All those things you can take and make interesting stories. And this is the stuff that’s running through my head, not what moves can I do. It’s like how can I take the intellectual property that people are familiar with and twist it so it’s like this guy’s insane. It’s everything I’ve come to love and now I genuinely hate it. And in being a real bad guy, and I think that was the conversation that was eventually had where it’s like, okay, it’s a bad idea. I’m like, Hey, I know this is going to sting but I’m not going to sell another T-shirt. I’m going to take all merchandise off the market. I’m not going to put on anything new. I’m not going to do any more appearances. I’m not going to do any Make-A-Wish. I’m not going to do anything like that. I’m going to be a bad guy to make your good guy so your good guy does all that. And that’s when I was like we’re kind of into deep. So it worked out the way it worked out. But bro, I was ready.”

Meeting MJF: “So the whole totality of the thing is I knew he was going to be there. And I don’t think the old me would have associated with him just because of how maybe WWE I was, I still am WWE, but there is room for competition and competition is great. And just because you don’t wear the company brand I have doesn’t mean you’re a bad performer. Sports entertainment is a finicky business. And again, there’s a lot of chance to make moments. So this is one of their top performers for AEW. And I don’t know if I’m going to be the target of a moment. I’m just going to support my friend in a movie. He couldn’t have been nicer. He couldn’t have been more cordial. And we meet each other and I got pulled away to take some pictures. And then we were about to go do everything else before I even got to you. And I was like, hold on, give me two minutes.

“I shook his hand. I said, Man, I’m so sorry. Excuse my ignorance, I didn’t know what to expect from you today. You are a class act, I can’t believe you’re as professional as you are. That’s just my ignorance. I’m sorry, I had that judgment, I want to thank you for being so special, thanks for making my night. And then we got back I was able to talk to him more. And I kind of [said] maybe we can get you to play for the right team one day and all that. There’s no denying the fact that he’s doing good work. And I don’t think that I should ignore that. Honestly, I was floored by his professionalism, where it would have been an easy target at a wrestling movie premiere, to have yourself a moment. And we did have a moment. And it was one that the internet paid attention to. And it was one where I was hoping that this person that I met, I could once bet on like, Man, if we just get you over here. That’d be awesome. But it was great. It was great to meet a professional, classy, driven young man.”

Original plans for the Firefly Funhouse Match: “[Was it going to be a normal match?] Yeah, and then things happened. And I remember three days before we filmed the Firefly Funhouse match. It was the last TV taping where they came in and they’re like, you’re gonna have a Firefly Funhouse match. And I remember there was three people in one of the conference rooms in NXT with me, I said, What’s a Firefly Funhouse match? They said, I don’t know. I said great! What can we do? And that was like, oh, man, again control the controllable. I wish we had an audience. Performers are like I wish there could be blood. I wish we could do chair shots to the head. I wish we could swear I wish I could flip people off. Control the controllable, use the tools in your tool belt. How do we make something entertaining over a two day period with no audience? And they gave us a stipulation. Everybody else has a regular match. And it’s your stip like it’s your stip. It’s not a doctor of Thuganomics match or hustle, loyalty, respect match, that’s completely different.

“You have these definitive characters, you have all this ammunition, you have all this personality. And that’s what people really radiate towards. Holy sh*t we can make this a meta look at my life and we can get away with it. What do we have up in the warehouse, we have the fist, we have the blue cage. I can get some nWo stuff, we can make this work. And I remember this the only match I’ve ever written from start to finish. And my poor wife, I made her print it out and I’m writing and giving her paper. [She said] What is this? What does it even mean? I said just print it, I need it. And somewhere I still have the original draft in my handwriting of the Firefly Funhouse. But man Bray couldn’t have been better. He knew what was up. And he knew the whole thing. I wrote it the night before. So I’m trying to text these guys like I got something weird and I think I might have sent a picture of the draft. And I still do in my phone. I don’t have it with me. But I have saved a text that I sent him the night of the match, especially after we saw The Undertaker’s match the night before, and there was a whole lot more physicality, we got one punch. And I text him how nervous I was. But I wanted to thank him for being so brave and trusting me and I think I couldn’t have done any more. And I think we gave it our best shot. And hopefully it works. And it was an effort that I am very proud of.”


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